By Dale Isip

In a 2010 study that assessed the multitasking abilities of 200 individuals, only a very small minority of those tested – 2.5 percent – were able to perform duties concurrently without a negative change in performance. Such a study underscores the importance of taking on a single task at a time.

Knowing this, and that over 7 million American workers were employed at more than one job in 2021, the case for daily task prioritization is apparent. The following is a guideline on how best to prioritize your tasks for the day.

Start with a List   

This step may be obvious, but writing a list of all your obligations is the best way to get started in the prioritization process. Tasks may float in and out of your mind, and there is no reason to forget one while you are working on another.

Write down all your obligations for the day. Though work-related tasks are a given, you might want to include everything you can think of, even things like exercising or brushing your teeth. The more tasks you have on paper (or your cell phone/computer) the easier it will be to manage them.

Categorize Duties

Depending on how you work, you may want to separate your tasks by either their importance, duration, or difficulty. Of course, the most urgent tasks deserve their place at the top. Communication-related tasks could be most pressing, in this case, you may want to put individualized writing or accounting tasks (for example) towards the end of the list.

You can categorize tasks as follows: 1) Urgent, Easy, 2) Urgent, Difficult, 3) Less Urgent, Easy, 4) Less Urgent, Difficult, 5) Least Urgent, Easy, 6) Least Urgent, Difficult. This will give you a framework into which you can place existing or newer duties.

If you build your work around your appointments, start on the more urgent and easier tasks.  Estimate how much time each task may need to be completed. This will help with the next step – categorizing tasks that might be completed on another day.

Know Your Limits

There is a good chance that you will not complete every task on your list – at least not on the same day that you write it. In this case, allow for a “rollover” task category, with duties that will take days or even weeks to finish.

Turn to your calendar and schedule time for these longer tasks. You will likely face other day-to-day duties as you approach the deadlines for long-term ones. Allow for daily times to work on both long-term and short-term duties, and prioritization will become that much easier.

Review and Adjust

You will likely receive more tasks as your day progresses, but they should be easier to manage. You will at least have a framework of your duties, and how to approach them. By acknowledging your completed tasks and adjusting as necessary, prioritizing tasks can keep you productive and organized.